Soyfood sales are soaring. In the past, soyfoods were viewed as products
for vegetarians, hippies and nature lovers. That attitude has changed.
Veggie burgers made from soybeans can now be found in mainstream restaurant
chains, and most grocery stories carry at least one or two different brands.
Until only a few years ago in North America, the main consumers of soyfoods
were ethnic communities with a history of using these products. Gradually,
the health benefits have become more widely known and health food stores began
selling the products.
Today, soyfoods and soy beverages are sold in most grocery stores. They
come in the form of tofu, cooking oils, baked goods and breakfast shakes.
But even plastics, cleaning products and candles may contain soy.
"The soy sector is particularly interesting because of the low cost of
growing the bean, and the new technologies developed to get the best of the
beans' nutritional and functional properties," says Rowan Lalonde of ProSoya.
"Another interesting factor is the higher cost of many of soybeans' competitors
on a planet where space to grow food is very limited."
The founder of ProSoya, Raj Gupta, wanted to provide an inexpensive source
of nutrition for Third World countries. In these crowded countries, cow's
milk is an extravagance the average person can no longer afford.
Gupta realized that to drink soymilk for nutrition, it had to taste, smell
and feel good to the tongue. He developed the patented process of "airless
cold grinding" literally in his basement.
This process produces the very best flavor with a limited amount of processing.
Tofu, beverages, yogurt, ice creams and powders can then be produced from
this liquid base.
A Healthy Choice
The health benefits of soyfoods are now widely publicized. Peter Golbitz
is president of the Soyfoods Association of America. He says that soy protein
food helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce the incidence
of many diseases. It can also be a complete source of nutrition.
"Luckily for us, American soyfood producers have been extremely creative
over the past 15 years or so, and have been introducing an average of 200
new soyfood products a year into the marketplace," says Golbitz.
"They have learned how to produce soyfoods which are convenient to prepare,
have a long shelf life, cater to North American tastes and meal preferences,
and still carry a healthy nutritional profile," he adds.
Studies have found that soyfoods reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease,
diabetes and osteoporosis, and may lessen the effects of menopause. Research
has shown that residents of countries where soyfoods are regularly consumed
are less likely to develop certain types of cancers. This includes breast,
lung, colon, rectal, stomach and prostate cancer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that a diet that includes
soy protein can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Nancy Chapman is the executive director of the Soyfood Association of North
America. In her speech to the Third Annual Soyfoods Symposium, she said that
one of the factors contributing to the increase in the demand for soyfoods
is the aging baby boomers.
"This large group of consumers, now more interested in longevity and good
health, continue to drive trends in the marketplace," Chapman says.
According to Nutrition Today, this generation believes that food is an
important factor in achieving good health. The boomers are consuming more
dietary supplements, organic foods and vegetarian foods.
Fred Brandenburg is a member of a soybean growers' marketing board. He
believes that there exists a demand in export markets for high-quality soybeans.
He sees this trend as providing growers and suppliers with new opportunities
in soybean production.
"There will be more specialization and contract production. Companies will
contract with growers to produce a specific variety of soybeans for a specific
end market at a premium price," he says.
Soybeans provide farmers with another option for growing. While for many
years, corn and wheat were the two main crops produced, soybeans can now be
a part of the crop rotation in many areas.
The soybean industry in the U.S. has experienced significant growth in
recent years for a couple of reasons. Shelia Lingle works with the Indiana
Soybean Board. "It is a very versatile crop that is in demand domestically,
as well as internationally," she says.
"Plus, the American Soybean Association has several international offices
promoting soybeans in other countries."
"Soybean farmers create opportunities for profit through what is known
as the soybean checkoff," says Mike Orso of the United Soybean Board.
"One-half of one percent of the price per bushel sold is deducted and used
to build markets for soybeans here at home and abroad, develop new uses for
soybeans, and to find ways to keep soybean production as efficient for soybean
farmers as possible."
Those associated with the soyfoods industry are optimistic about the future.
"With a planet producing more people on a limited land base, plants like soy,
and the foods and products derived from it, are going to be a growing opportunity
for employment and investment," says Lalonde.
As health benefits of soyfoods are publicized, it is expected that health-conscious
baby boomers will increase the amount of soyfoods in their diet.
Also, it is much cheaper to feed people soy than to grow crops to feed
farm animals. This is an important economic factor for the future of the soy
industry and for the future of the world.
Lists recipes, nutritional information and descriptions of soyfoods
American Soybean Association
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United Soybean Board
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